By: Amber Leventry
At the core of who we are, we are all unique. And within this uniqueness is a seed of identity. Some of us have always been able to tap into this sense of who we are, while others have needed more time. Some may never experience the freedom and joy of being inherently themselves. This seed of identity roots us, though, and without the proper care it will not grow and flourish.
I knew at a very young age that I liked girls. My five year old self longed to be close to them but couldn’t describe why. My tween self felt embarrassed and ashamed to admit the flickering of feelings that bubbled under the surface when I was near a girl I really liked. And my teen and adult selves grew into liking girls in a way that may make some blush.
Sexuality is one thing, gender identity is another. Because I was born a female, my family and society tried to dress, shape, and label me as such. I have remained biologically a female, but from the very young age that had me shimmy close to the cute girl on the playground, I have felt equally male. My clothes, interests, and physical appearance are considered masculine.
Sometimes I feel like Olivia, the dramatic, off-beat pig in Ian Falconer’s wonderful children’s books. In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, Olivia is depressed and on the verge of an identity crisis. “I don’t know what I should be!” she tells her father. When he reminds her she will always be his little princess, she admits that is the problem. “All the girls want to be princesses….There are alternatives.”
Right on, Olivia. I am an example of having an alternative identity. I use female pronouns and check the box for female on surveys; by definition, I am a woman and a lesbian. But I don’t feel 100% female, and I don’t like to be called a lesbian. My seed of identity seems to be a hybrid of both male and female genders. I feel comfortable looking more male than female, and if I am being completely honest—and why shouldn’t I be—I would prefer a flat chest and male genitalia. For all of these reasons, I consider myself to be queer.
I am a product of places I have lived, strangers I have made eye contact with but not conversation, and by people who have treated me well and not so well. I have been influenced by many factors, but the most influential factor which allowed me to become whole has been the unconditional love in my life. And nothing has provided me with more unconditional love than my partner and children. I don’t fit the mold of most mamas, but my kids don’t care or love me less.
I am true to myself and thankful for the people who hold together the pieces of my life, because they are also holding together my identity. And no one understands me or keeps me whole better than my partner. She’s the pretty one on the left.
I love the ongoing conversation around the word queer and the uprising of conversations around the topics of pansexuality, female masculinity, and intersex born children. The overriding message is that individuals have the right to not only define their identity but to express it any way they want. The word queer can cause confusion and divide opinions on its use. But I embrace it because it includes all of who I am without the need to define each piece of my entirety.
It’s okay if that doesn’t make sense to everyone. I don’t want or need to fit into a box so that I can clear up someone’s confusion. I have been confused by me too. But an open mind and acceptance are pretty amazing things to have, especially when trying to feel comfortable about something new or different.
Sure, I wish my hips were thinner and sometimes I wish I could rock a goatee while wearing my worn jeans and V-neck t-shirts. But I am also pretty proud to be a strong, outspoken woman who shops in the men’s section while her partner and three kids sit in the minivan and wonder how long it will take for her to pick out new boxers.
In Olivia and the Fairy Princesses, she decides she is best suited to be queen. I am best suited to be queer, an accumulation of characteristics, outward appearances, and silent mannerisms which express my true self and core identity. And because there are alternatives, I’m just me.